Beware of small sample size with Swisher
ON NICK SWISHER, BABE RUTH, AND OTHER FAILURE-MINDED BALLPLAYERS
Nick Swisher had a very difficult ALCS. In six games he went 3-for-20 with three walks. He struck out seven times, didn’t have an extra-base hit, didn’t drive in a run. This is the definition of a miserable performance. However, extrapolate at your own risk. Reggie Jackson, Mr. October himself, went 2-for-16 in the 1977 ALCS, just days before he personally bombed the Dodgers to death in the World Series. As I’ve been saying all along, this stuff happens. But don’t take my word for it. Here are just a few other examples:
- Babe Ruth, 1922 World Series: 2-for-17 (.118), no home runs, one RBI.
- Tony Lazzeri, 1926 World Series: 5-for-26 (.192), no home runs, three RBI.
- Bob Meusel, 1927 World Series: 2-for-17 (.118), no home runs, one RBI.
- Joe Gordon, 1939 World Series: 2-for-14 (.143), no home runs, one RBI.
- Bill Dickey, 1941 World Series: 3-for-18 (.167), no home runs, one RBI.
- Phil Rizzuto, 1941 World Series: 2-for-18 (.111), no home runs, no RBI.
- Joe DiMaggio, 1949 World Series: 2-for-18 (.111), one home run, two RBI.
- Mickey Mantle, 1962 World Series: 3-for-25 (.120), no home runs, no RBI.
- Willie Randolph, 1976 World Series: 1-for-14 (.071), no home runs, no RBI.
- Dave Winfield, 1981 World Series: 1-for-22 (.045), no home runs, one RBI.
- Paul O’Neill, 1996 World Series: 2-for-12 (.167), no home runs, no RBI.
- Derek Jeter, 2001 World Series: 4-for-27 (.148), one home run, one RBI.
That’s a dozen examples, and all, with the exception of Winfield, picked at random from the long list of Yankees greats. There are eight Hall of Famers on the list, plus Jeter, who is going in as long as he doesn’t rob any banks between now and 2020 or so. For some of them, the series listed above represented their only poor postseason; for others, I had several choices. Swisher hit very badly in the series just ended. There is no way around that. It changes nothing about the valuable season that he had or other series that he might play in the future.
We could also throw a Jorge Posada series or two onto the list above; in 23 World Series games, he’s a .208/.337/.338 hitter. He’s also had some very good postseason series. For example, he drove in six runs against the Red Sox in the 2003 ALCS. These are very small segments of performance we’re talking about, and they don’t have much in the way of predictive power. As the Jackson and Jeter examples above show, they can call you Mr. October or even Mr. November, but, in the words of Casey Stengel, sometimes it doesn’t always work.